It was then a case of proving to the bosses that I was worthy of shooting at race events for the company's clients. I shot over 35 race weekends in my first year (1988) so as to get better and better. Formula First, Formula Ford, FF2000, Opel Lotus Euro Series, F3, BTCC and F3000 were all covered in that first season.
My goal of shooting a foreign F1 race was achieved at the 1989 German grand prix. After that I shot about 10-12 grands prix a year for a few years while also covering every round of the F3000 International Championship. At the beginning of 1994 I left Zooom to pursue a freelance career and have shot at every F1 race since.
Q: What do you love most about it?
A: Being paid to do what I love. The immensely rewarding experience of other people enjoying one's work is a joy and one for which I am truly grateful.
Q: What is the biggest challenge when photographing F1?
A: Trying to stay one step ahead of the other photographers. I am fortunate to get nice shooting briefs to work to, allowing me to concentrate on a particular style of shooting that hopefully makes my work stand out from the rest.
Q: Is it difficult to maintain a sense of individuality between the sets of images for the various races?
A: That's the challenge. Obviously one is very aware of the competition's work and I do all I can to keep-up with them! As far as the different F1 venues are concerned they all – good or bad – have a character or feel that one should try to bring out in one's work. I'm a firm believer in the mantra that; good photographers find good places (from which to shoot). Research, planning and a sense of place all combine to produce a good set of images from whatever race. One gets back what one puts in.....
Q: Have you formed personal relationships with any of the drivers?
A: No not really. I can have a five minute chat with Button or Webber for example, but drivers generally are often more than a little self-centred, guarded, arrogant, into themselves, blinkered etc, etc. I don't mean to sound disingenuous about them - there are of course exceptions - but it is often the case.
It's not really surprising. Ever since a young age they've been at the centre of attention, had adulation poored upon them and mostly not had a 'normal' upbringing.
This year it's been interesting to spend some time with ex-Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari. He readily admits he's learnt more about what happens and the people within F1 than he ever did during two and a half years driving for the Italian team.
When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the job at hand it doesn't matter to me who is in the cars, drivers come and drivers go but the sport carries on and I keep photographing it!
Q: Other than motorsports, what other types of photography are you passionate about?
A: I'm a big fan of a certain style of photography best exemplified by such as William Egglestone and Fred Herzog's work in the 1970s. It can perhaps be summed up as: making the ordinary look extraordinary.
Q: Which is your favourite country to photograph F1 in?
A: Not sure I have a favourite country. I love shooting at Monaco, Montreal (Canada), Sepang (Malaysia), Monza (Italy), Singapore and Suzuka (Japan). Every circuit in whichever country has something to offer the creative photographer.
Q: Did you have any apprehensions about travelling to the Bahrain race?
A: Yes. I don't think F1 should be put, either by choice or not, in a highly political position. 'Our' presence in Bahrain gave legitimacy to a regime, that is inextricably linked to the country's grand prix, that had very recently been condemned for no-end of human rights violations.
Q: How did the unrest there affect your trip?
A: Removal of passes when outside the circuit (both on the car and myself) breathing-in tear gas, travelling at different times to those I would usually at a grand prix etc. All liveable with but slightly depressing at the same time.
Q: Were you tempted to photograph any of the protesting?
Q: What advise would you give to someone looking to get into motorsport photography?
A: I think the best thing aspiring F1 photographers can do is concentrate on shooting racing cars at smaller events such as local rallies, sprint meetings and hill climbs.
Once you feel your work is at a suitable level try contacting the large agencies such as LAT, Sutton or Getty Images who are in a good position to entertain employing up-and-coming photographers and will get a far better idea as to one's ability with a camera than they will from shot-through-high-fences pictures of distant F1 cars. In my experience professional bodies offer very little in the way of help so I wouldn't spend much time on that route.
Don't even think about F1 for a while. It's prohibitively expensive and very difficult to get in. The number of F1 snappers has dropped considerably in the last two years purely as a result of market forces making it increasingly hard for new guys to get in.
I and many of my colleagues have been shooting F1 and all types of junior formulae for upwards of 20-30 and even 40 years and, as is nearly always the case, it takes a long time to get to the top in any profession. Having said that if you have a single minded determination to succeed, talent and enthusiasm you will make it.
See more of Darren Heath's work both on track and off via his website www.darrenheath.com
Interview conducted by Francesca Bassenger, Photography © Darren Heath.